It turns out that writing about Justin Bieber's alleged assault of a 12-year-old boy who (allegedly) called him a "faggot," Lindsay Lohan's choices of nail polish and her evolving mug shots, Paris Hilton's cocaine arrest, or Perez Hilton's oscillating mean spirits is no longer necessary to attract money-earning Web traffic -- if it was ever necessary at all.
Celebrity stories may raise the numbers of visitors, but those visitors are less likely to buy anything, or even look at advertising on a web site or blog. It's as if a passerby noticed Shia LaBeouf at a sidewalk cafe in Dupont Circle but didn't bother to stroll into the place and order an espresso and a muffin.
The New York Times reports that an analysis by Perfect Market, a media consulting company, finds that hard news stories attract the most profitable traffic to newspaper web sites (and, I would hazard to extrapolate, to news-and-opinion blogs, as well).
According to the Times:
Using data from newspapers including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Orlando Sentinel, Perfect Market found that the most profitable articles were the ones readers were most engaged with. Topics like unemployment, the egg recall and mortgage rates topped the list.Reporting on the same story, with the alliterative headline "Lindsay Lohan Less Lucrative for News Sites Than Hard News," Advertising Age added:
The reason, Perfect Market analysts explained, was that advertising is more effective when it is paired with news content that is relevant to the product, especially when the subject of the news is something in which readers have a personal interest.
Newspaper websites get more ad revenue from articles about serious stuff like the Gulf oil spill than from traffic bait like stories on celebrity scandals, according to an analysis by Perfect Market, a company that aims to help publishers become more visible and profitable on the web.Advertising Age's Nat Ives explained why celebrity-driven stories lack the profit potential of nuts-and-bolts, bread-and-butter topics.
A lot of the difference had to do with automated text ads that are keyed to the content on a page, ads that can be overshadowed by the big display units that newspapers' sales teams typically sell directly. Articles about immigration, for example, are magnets for text ads promoting immigration lawyers.Jeremy W. Peters in the New York Times offered some actual numbers that demonstrate the profitability of stories about the economy and other "kitchen table" issues.
"The rates paid by advertisers on Google AdSense for immigration-related terms are higher than the celebrity-related stuff like Lindsay Lohan," said Robertson Barrett, chief strategy officer at Perfect Market. Mortgage lenders want to put text ads in front of people reading about mortgages, he said, but there aren't as many advertisers trying to sell celebrity memorabilia.
Perfect Market measured revenue per page view and found that articles about Social Security were the most valuable, generating an average of $129 for 1,000 page views. Articles about mortgage rates made $93 for every 1,000 page views. On other topics, values for every 1,000 page views were $28 for items about unemployment, $33 for articles on jobs, $20 for articles on the egg recall and $26 for pieces on immigration reform.To be perfectly candid, I still haven't made a dime from Google AdSense in the nearly six years I've been blogging. But at least I know now that I don't have to make gratuitous references to Lady Gaga in order to increase my traffic volume and click-through rates. (I'll still Tweet about Glee, even though there's no profit in it.)
To my readers, however: please feel free to click on the ads below. Google and I will both be grateful (me more than the Big G).